The big cutback part 4: The titanic struggle with the big ficus and I invoke help from Wigan!

The last thing I tackle in my winter cutback is my attempts to prune back my big ficus tree. This sits majestically in a gravelled area on part of my front garden. The pruning is a mammoth task mainly because the ficus gets bigger year by year whilst I get smaller over the same time frame. Those of you who regularly follow this blog will remember that I pruned this tree back to a donut effect over 12 years ago by cutting out the central trunk to create a hole in the middle into which I inserted a statue of the Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.

The big ficus has always seen this reshaping as an affront to its dignity, and as such has sought to punish me over the years by various means including:

  • Becoming infested with wooly aphids and many other creatures
  • Deliberately dropping its leaves to make the gravel area untidy
  • Tripping me up in its roots
  • Throwing me off my ladder when I am entering the centre of the tree

Anyway let’s get on with this.

2nd February 2023. Things I have been doing lately:

Pre-fight psyching out with the big ficus. An important part of my pre-pruning ritual is to build up my courage by pre-prune psyching out. This is a bit like boxers at the weigh in. We stare at each other, I strike postures around the tree and issue a series of blood curdling threats. For its part the tree just waits silently knowing it’s time is coming. The photos below show the big ficus before the fight, followed by the early stages with me striking postures with the tree. The final photo shows my new gardening jacket bought from the sales- I didn’t get a choice of colour. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Big moody and emanating menace
I think I look quite handsome in my new gardening jacket. Note the intimidating power pose I am striking

Day one of the fight. This is the most difficult day as I start by pruning round the sides using my long reach trimmers. But standing on my little platform and wielding the heavy trimmers began to take its toll as the day wore on. The first photo below shows that I wasn’t making much progress. Even with the Cheshire Cat looking on it was very heavy going. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Day 2 I call for assistance. At the end of day 1 I searched the internet for some source of help, and by chance discovered it in the most unlikely of places – Wigan! I didn’t realise that Wigan had a flourishing Pruners and Pie Eaters Guild. Evidently this ancient and honourable society exist solely to assist gardeners in distress and requires no payment other than plentiful pies with lashings of gravy.

The Brother Pruner they sent – which is what they are called in the Guild -insisted that his calling forbade him from revealing his identity, so the only photos I took he insisted that I did not show his face. Anyway, it was fascinating he started the day with what I can only describe as a Haka similar to the New Zealand rugby team, but involving pies. He then liberally smeared himself with gravy and after a few ritual bows to the tree he ascended his scaffolding and began his work attired only in his fading grey cowl. Those of you who are interested in the study of folklore may be interested to know that he sang a series of ancient songs as he worked. To be honest I couldn’t make it out as most words started with th. The series of photos below show him at work. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Upon completion of his work he left without a word or seeking any form of payment, leaving only the faint smell of pies and a few puddles of gravy.

The big clean up. An important part of the big cutback is to make sure you clean up any debris, as if left this will attract snails and slugs. The photos below show the big clean up in progress. The final photo shows Cruella’s (my wife) chickens moving in to hunt down snails and slugs. Click on each photo for a larger view.

And finally, it is all over for another year and the Cheshire Cat is where it belongs back in the centre of the tree.

Note the enigmatic smile

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

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